What Should We Do When Our Prayer Life Is Obscure?

33rd Week of Ordinary Time: The Lord Never Withholds His Grace

By Francis Fernandez-Carvajal

5/85.1 To pray more earnestly in moments of obscurity.

Monday's Gospel related an incident that happened as the Lord was going up to Jerusalem: As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.[6549]

Several of the Fathers of the Church have held this blind man to be a symbol of those who do not have a clear vision of eternal light.[6550] There are times when the soul can experience obscurity and even blindness. The path that once seemed so clearly defined can become more difficult to make out. What was light and joy can turn to shadows. Sadness can then overtake the soul. This situation may often be the consequence of personal sins or a failure to correspond to grace: perhaps the dust we stir up as we walk – our miseries – forms an opaque cloud that cuts off the light from above.[6551] Another explanation is that the Lord may permit the onset of a period of obscurity as a means of purifying the soul, of increasing our humility and trust in him. When we experience this kind of trial everything demands more effort. That is only logical. These are times when the devil tries to plunge us more deeply into sadness and undermine our dedication.

No matter what its origin, what is a person to do in this quandary? The blind man of Jericho – Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus[6552] – has given us a wonderful lesson: we should go to the Lord all the more earnestly. He is always near. He hears our prayer. He will respond in his infinite mercy. Even though it may seem as if He would pass us by, He is wholly conscious of our situation. Our prayers may be impeded by all kinds of difficulties. This is what happened to Bartimaeus: And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. The blind man found his path to Jesus strewn with obstacles. We may experience the same phenomenon when we want to return to God. Our past faults and failures seem to besiege our heart and becloud our understanding. Our spirits are thrown into confusion. It is as if our past sins wanted to silence our prayers.[6553] We feel the weight of our weakness and sins.

Let us take a lesson from the blind beggar: But he cried out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ The man whom the crowd wanted to silence raises his voice more and more. This is a model for us ... the greater our interior confusion, the more our difficulties on the way, so much the stronger should our prayers become.[6554]

It appeared as if Jesus would continue on his way to Jerusalem without halting. But he called the blind man to himself. Bartimaeus drew near and Jesus asked him: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me receive my sight’. And Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has made you well’. And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God.

At times it is very hard to figure out the causes for such trials. We may not know the reason, but we can be sure of the remedy. It is persevering prayer. When darkness surrounds us and our soul is blind and restless, we have to go to the Light, like Bartimaeus. Repeat, shout, cry out ever more strongly, ‘Domine, ut videam!’ Lord, that I may see. And daylight will dawn upon you, and you will be able to enjoy the brightness He grants you.[6555]


[6549] Luke 18:35-43

[6550] cf St Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Gospels, I, 2, 2

[6551] St. J. Escrivá, Christ is passing by, 34

[6552] Mark 10:46-52

[6553] St Gregory the Great, op cit, I, 2, 3

[6554] cf ibid, I, 2, 4

[6555] St. J. Escrivá, Furrow, 862